A week ago I baby sat for a friend. His young daughter wanted
a story before bed. Reading old fairy tales, made me think of how,
for thousands of years, the way we taught the lessons of life was
through story and tales told around a campfire. Being a writer
(in my spare time) I thought given the way the market's been of
late, a story might be appropriate.
It's not the story I set out to write, but it's the story that got
written. (A writer would understand) Apologies for including a few
of you in it.
The Farmer and the Dragon
An MI fairy tale on Risk.
Once upon a time, there was a bright young man named Envestor,
strong of limb and unafraid of hard work, whose single misfortune in
life was to be an orphan. His parents had died when he was young, and
Envestor had gone to live with his Uncle on his small farm. So it came
that on Envestor's sixteenth birthday, Uncle called him inside.
"You have been a good hand to have around Envestor, but it is time
for you to leave and make your way into the world." Uncle set a
small bag on the table. "The harvest has been good, so here is some
coin to help you get started, and the deed to your parent's farm
in the next valley."
Now Envestor loved his Uncle, but being young, had been thinking
of a place of his own. So bundling his few possessions up, he hugged
his Uncle goodbye, and took off.
It took Envestor several days of walking before he came to the
valley of his parent's farm. The place showed its years of neglect.
The brush had grown up around the farm, and the fields were tall with
grass. The farm house roof had holes and the pasture fence had
"Don't look at it as a problem," Uncle was want to say, "Look
at it as an opportunity."
Envestor knew he must take care of the basics first, before
he could begin farming. The sky looked clear, so he began by clearing
the brush from around the house. The larger limbs he used to repair
the pasture fence, the rest he bundled into lengths for firewood.
Soon he had a very large pile. Next he tackled the fields, cutting
the grass. Some he used to thatch the holes in the roof, but most
he piled into several high stacks. It was near the end of the day,
when Envestor spied a lone figure walking down the road towards
him. The other was dressed as a farmer leading a small donkey.
"Greetings!" the stranger called. "I'm Elan, a neighbor."
Envestor introduced himself.
"I had come to cut some firewood, since no one lived here."
Farmer Elan admitted. "I guess I will have to go further up
into the forest from now on. Unless you would trade me some of the
wood you have cut."
Now Envestor needed many things to get his new farm going. So it
was after some spirited dickering that the two men agreed on a
trade. Farmer Elan got a donkey load of firewood, Envestor got
5 sheep and a ram.
Several days passed. Envestor was working around the house when
the sheep gave a great cry of alarm. Thinking perhaps a wolf, Envestor
grabbed his ax and ran outside.
There in the field was a dragon. Wide of wing, sharp talons
extended, the dragon had a sheep in each of its front legs. It roared
loudly and took off into the air, carrying the sheep with it.
Envestor shook his ax at the beast, but the dragon seemed not
to notice as it flew away.
Fearing the dragon's return, Envestor gathered up the frightened
sheep, putting them inside the farmhouse. With ax in hand, he stood
watch on the porch. He stood watch all afternoon. He stood watch
all evening. He stood watch all night. Envestor was angry at the
dragon for stealing his sheep.
He awoke next morning to the bleating of hungry sheep. Fear
forgotten, they wanted out. The ram butted the door several times.
Envestor let them out, but followed them to the pasture and
kept an eye to the sky. It was late afternoon, when Farmer Elan
again showed up. This time he had his donkey and another man
was with him, who introduced himself as Farmer Moe.
"There was a dragon!" Envestor exclaimed. "It snatch several
of my sheep. You didn't say anything about a dragon."
"Everyone around here knows about the dragon," Farmer Elan
replied. "Didn't you research the valley before coming here?"
Now Envestor admitted he had not.
"A person should know what they're getting into," Farmer Moe
said. "Before they get into it."
Envestor knew the other was right. He'd not done his research.
Bandits, robbers, just about any danger could be near. He took several
minutes asking the other two about the valley.
"The dragon has been here forever it seems. His name is Risk,
and no one knows when he will appear." Farmer Elan shook his head.
"He does seem to appear when you least expect him too."
"I see you have several large hay stacks," Farmer Moe said.
"My harvest last year was poor, and I'm running low. Would you
be willing to trade something for it?"
Now Envestor still needed many things to get his new farm
going. So it was after some spirited dickering that the two men
agreed on a trade. Farmer Moe got a donkey load of hay, Envestor
in return got the use of a plow horse to plow his field and some
seed. Farmer Elan wanted more wood, in exchange for two more sheep.
The first summer was hard, Envestor worked from sun up to sun down.
He felled many trees, and built a barn. Fortune smiled on him though,
by Fall he had a bountiful harvest, and his flock now numbered nine.
All the sheep had lambs, one even another ram.
The dragon came again in the Fall, on the day Envestor was
getting ready to go to market. It dropped out of the sky, landing
in the pasture among the sheep. Sharp clawed leg snapped out,
snaring another sheep. Envestor grabbed up his ax and ran towards
the beast. The dragon noticed him, and Envestor almost swore it smiled.
Then with a great breath, fire shot from its mouth towards Envestor.
The young man dove for the ground. The flames licked passed him,
shinging the back of his hair. When Envestor finally looked up,
the dragon was gone, and he was one less sheep.
The near flames had scared Envestor. He spent the next several
days hiding in his barn with the sheep, all thoughts of market
gone. Finally though, the sheep wanted out.
It was an easy winter. The snow not too deep, Envestor
had time to himself to think. He realized that he'd been lucky.
With all the sheep in the same pasture, the dragon could have
easily eaten them all. In the spring he built a second pasture.
After shearing the winter wool from them, Envestor put one ram with
three sheep in each pasture. Envestor figured by spreading his
flock to two different pastures he cut the chance of the dragon
getting them all.
Gathering up the sheared wool, Envestor went to the nearby village
of Foolville. He took his small bag of coin, for he needed a plow
horse to help with planting. The market was friendly, the fools
greeted him with good cheer. As Envestor walked around he marveled
at the sights. One booth in particular caught his eye. Its banner
proclaimed "Talking cat for sale!"
Now Envestor had never seen a talking cat. And apparently
not many fools had either. There was quite the crowd. A young
woman stood behind a stool, where perched a large tomcat,
gray and white.
"What's its name?" Envestor asked.
"My name is Ray," spoke the cat.
This amazed Envestor. He listened as the cat spoke quite
intelligently on many things. Often though, a person in the
crowd asked something silly. Then the cat displayed a sharp wit
and tongue, which caused groans of amusement from the crowd at
the chastised fool. Envestor thought of the long winter
nights, with just himself for company. The more the young man
thought about it, the more he wanted the talking cat. He went to
talk to the woman. In the end, it cost Envestor his entire bag of coin.
With his new pet, Envestor continued to walk around the market
and soon ran across his neighbor. Farmer Elan was talking to
a young man, who introduced himself as Sux, a miner.
"I see you have a new addition to your farm." Elan said. "Many
of us have had that cat stay with them. He is foolish, listen to
The miner Sux nodded his head in agreement.
"Foolish?" Envestor said. "Tell me your advice then, Ray."
The cat cocked his head to one side, as if thinking.
"Words are powerful," Ray said. "But they won't plow a
inch of ground."
Envestor realized with a start, he'd unwisely spent the money
he'd set aside for the plow horse on a luxury he did not really need,
"Do either of you know where I can get a plow horse,"
Envestor asked. "Cheap."
"I don't have a horse." The miner Sux said. "I do have a
donkey I'll trade you."
Now Envestor needed something, and if a horse was not available,
a donkey would have to do. So it was after some spirited
dickering that the two men agreed on a trade. Envestor would have
to go with the miner to his home, high in the IBD mountains.
There he would trade the load of wool, for the donkey. They bid
farewell to Elan and took off.
The foothills grew large, then the mountains grew larger.
Envestor and the miner walked for several hours. Vestor was
breathing hard when finally they arrived.
"You've picked a mighty task for yourself." Envestor said.
"Mining these mountains for their gold."
"Mighty tasks are simple," Sux replied. "As long as you take
them a step at a time. And I've had help."
The donkey was an ancient thing, sway back from long toil.
"He may not be the newest model," Sux said patting the donkey.
"He still has plenty of life in him. He will get the job done."
The miner turned out to be right. While the planting took
longer than it would have with a horse, the donkey was persistent.
They plowed from day break to dusk. With the little beast's help,
Envestor got all his fields plowed.
It was a mild Spring, with quiet nights full of stars. Often
Envestor, with the cat as companion, would just sit on the porch
watching the sky. Spring turned into Summer, Summer into Fall.
Winter came, and still no visit from the dragon. The next year
past the same. The valley did seem blessed. Envestor's fields
provided a bountiful harvest, and his sheep flock grew.
In the Spring of Envestor's fourth year, the dragon came again.
Envestor's flock had grown to 40, with new births and additions
he had traded for at market. It swooped out of the late afternoon
and snatched a sheep before Envestor could even yell. A week later
the dragon appeared again, snatching another sheep. And again,
two weeks later, this time he lost two sheep.
The traveler which appeared a few days later, found Envestor,
haggard with worry.
"Greetings," said the man. "I hear you have dragon problems.
I can help."
"What can you do?" he asked.
"I am the great wizard Wise, know far and wide" the traveler
introduced himself. "I have the power of prediction and can
warn you of the coming of the dragon Risk."
From his perch on the porch, the cat chuckled.
Now the dragon had taken 4 sheep so far. If his feeding
continued, Envestor would soon be without a flock. Perhaps the
wizard Wise could help, he thought. So it was after some spirited
dickering that the two men agreed on a trade. The wizard would
get a place to stay, food to eat, and a sheep as payment each
month. Envestor would be warned of when the dragon would show up.
Each morning, Envestor would check with the wizard. Wise would
chant for a while, then from a pouch, pull forth bones, which
he would throw. After a few minutes of consulting the bones, the
wizard would pronounce it safe to go out. On a couple of days,
he warned against letting the sheep out. On those days, he
watered his flock in the barn, and kept close watch of the sky.
He saw no dragon though. This went on for several months.
One morning, after the wizard pronounced it safe, and the
sheep were out to pasture, Envestor went into the woods. He
had plans to build another barn, and wanted to start felling
trees. It was a long day, and hard work. He chopped down several,
and marked several more for another day.
Envestor returned to find that Risk had come again. This time
the dragon had snatched another sheep.
"What happened?" Envestor asked the wizard.
"Just because I was wrong today," Wise answered. "That does
not mean I'll be wrong tomorrow. After all, this is the first
time the dragon has returned."
The wizard the launched into a long winded explanation
about comic forces and the power of prediction. By explanation's
end, Envestor was assured the dragon would not come again.
But perhaps the dragon should have heard the explanation,
for Risk came again two weeks later. Again the wizard had proclaimed
the day safe. And again the dragon snatched another sheep.
When Envestor bid the wizard leave the next day, he counted
his loses. 6 months of wizard work, 6 sheep. The dragon, 6 more.
Winter found Envestor 12 sheep less.
Again the winter was mild, a man could grow to love this valley,
Spring passed quickly, new lambs filled his flock. Envestor built
his second barn with his neighbors' help. Farmers Elan and Moe brought
their families, several other farmers came as well. The miner Sux
even showed up with his beautiful new bride Malacite. They made a
party on the calm summer's eve.
The others had heard of his loses last year.
"What do you do?" Envestor asked the others.
"Sometimes you have to except what will be," Farmer Elan said.
The others nodded. "You have done what you could, by spreading
your flock out."
"Risk will take what it feels is its due." Farmer Moe agreed.
"Worry not about might have beens." The cat Ray injected,
drinking from a saucer of milk. "Be thankful for the bounty you have."
Envestor was sitting on the porch, sipping a cup of morning tea.
The cat was stretch out asleep in a patch of sun. Envestor's
sheep grazed in the pastures, peaceful and quiet.
Then the dragon swooped out of the sky, landing on one luckless
A curious thing, Envestor felt no panic at the dragon's
appearance. He sipped his tea and watched Risk feed. There was
a beauty to the big lizard, Envestor had not noticed until today.
What he took as senseless carnage was just a force of Nature.
No different from when the cat took a mouse. To be a mouse in
a barn, one had to put up with the cat. Envestor guessed,
to be a sheep farmer in this valley, one had to put up with Risk.
Summer turned to Fall. That year's harvest was again good.
On one night, crisp with coming winter's chill, Envestor awoke.
He lay in bed for several minutes, then arose and went outside.
The moon was full and shined down across his farm with silvery light.
Blanket draped across his shoulders, Envestor walked to his pasture
fence, enjoying the night.
"You do not fear me?" a voice whispered in his head.
Envestor slowly turned. The dragon was not an arm's width away.
"You do not fear me?" the voice inside his head asked
"Of course I fear you, but I've come to understand you."
Envestor replied. "No matter what I do, you will take something.
I can let my fear rule me, or I can rule my fear. No matter what
happens, I will survive, and prosper."
Risk seemed to smile. With a leap and beat of powerful
wings, the dragon took off into the night time sky.
"I will come again." the voice said.
It was Envestor's turn to smile.
"And I will still be here, when you have gone."